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6 Valuable Lessons I Learned in Army Bootcamp

Last week I was at the grocery store and overheard the check-out clerk discussing army boot camp with the customer in line in front of me. Her daughter had just finished up boot camp at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. They talked about how difficult it had been for her daughter, both mentally and physically.

As the customer left and I took her place in line at the register, I found myself blurting out, “I went to boot camp at Fort Jackson, too!”

The clerk and I continued to chat about how beneficial military experience can be for a young person just getting out of school. It’s tough. It’s disciplined. It’s demanding. Those who go through it emerge as a different person than they were before they began. A better person in most cases.

Driving home from the store that day, I couldn’t help thinking about how Army Boot Camp changed me – all in awesome ways. It was truly a learning experience I’ll never forget!

Here are the biggest lessons learned from Army Boot Camp that I still apply to my civilian life today:

1.  I learned humility.

Ahh…boot camp! One of the best ways to kick an attitude problem to the curb? Join the military!

Having a drill instructor routinely call me every name in the book, making me feel like a complete low-life, served to quickly knock a great big chip off my shoulder. Funny thing is, I never even realized I had that chip until it was swiftly removed.

You see, there’s a method to their madness. It’s not that the instructor enjoys screaming in a cadet’s face (although I often wondered if it was somewhat cathartic for them), but rather their goal is to remove the civilian and replace it with a highly trained, top-notch military service member.

That transformation can only begin with a humble attitude. So they “break” you. Then they build you back up – stronger, faster, more confident, and more equipped than ever before.

2.  I learned self-discipline.

There’s a big difference between civilian and military life, particularly as it relates to training for the job to come. In the civilian world, we are able to choose how we spend our free time. Even at work, we may be in a highly demanding job, but we still have some choice in how we manage our day. Military life doesn’t offer those luxuries. Certainly not while in basic training!

During my training, drill sergeants determined my every waking (and sleeping) hour. They told me when I could go to the mess hall – and only allowed a very short amount of time to inhale a meal. They inspected everything from how tightly my bed was made, to how spit-shiny clean my combat boots were.

My drill sergeants demanded a lot from all of us at boot camp. There was physical training every day. There were long hikes with heavy gear on our backs in hot, humid temperatures. We dug fox holes, and camped out in them for long periods of time. I even had to low crawl under simulated live fire, barbed wire, and in the mud. Those things are just a notch in the entire belt of basic training. There was so much more!

The point is, it was hard physically and mentally. What I learned from facing those demands head-on, was true self-discipline. There were countless days when I really wanted to give up, but I didn’t. I persevered. I pushed through. I forced myself to finish what I started. My mind screamed a million excuses about why I couldn’t go one more step, but I overcame those excuses and kept going. In doing so, I learned self-discipline – and the resulting feeling of accomplishment!

3.  I learned how to clean.

To this day, my mother still comments about how clean I keep my house. She can’t believe the 16-year-old slob, who never cleaned her room, and chronically complained about doing chores to help out around the house, grew up into a woman who insists on having a clean home.

Seriously. I’m hardcore about keeping things clean. I’m sure I drive my kids crazy always barking out orders to pick up after themselves, and do their chores the right way.

I learned a lot about how to clean from my mom, but most of what I know and apply to my own home now, I learned in boot camp. I had a drill sergeant throw my mattress across the floor and yell at me to“do it right this time!” more than once. I quickly learned the proper way to make a bed. I still do hospital corners when I change the sheets on the beds in my home.

In boot camp, I scrubbed tile floors and shower walls with a toothbrush. I scrubbed many nasty, dirty toilets. I had to help in the mess hall (the kitchen) a time or two. I had to sweep, mop, and use a buffer on the floors in our barracks. Believe me, I learned how to clean, because if it wasn’t done well enough to pass inspection, I had to start over and do it all again.

I guess you could say another lesson I learned was how to work hard!

4.  I learned to be strong.

This one ties in very closely with self-discipline. There’s mental strength and there’s physical strength. I gained both during my time at boot camp.

Mental strength came from persevering through everything that was hard and miserable. I constantly had to battle with my weaknesses – and the weaknesses of those around me. Teamwork was a huge factor, so we had to keep encouraging each other through everything.

Physical strength was gained from daily physical training, of course. We had to do timed running, push-ups, and sit-ups every morning, with the goal of continued improvement in results. There was also the physical strength that came from hard work, marching everywhere, packing heavy gear on our backs, and navigating various obstacles throughout training, such as climbing walls, repelling, and hand-to-hand combat. The gas chamber was particularly awful!

5.  I learned confidence.

Honestly, it was finishing boot camp that really elevated my confidence. There were so many challenges that intimidated me, or that I felt unequipped to navigate successfully – and yet I did them, and for the most part, I did them well! My body and my mind were pushed to the limit each and every day of training. I never quit. I accomplished things I had never done before. I faced a lot of fears. I conquered Army boot camp! It was a big deal! I left there with a total “can-do” attitude.

That “can-do” attitude has stuck with me over the years. When I decide I want to challenge myself to something new, I go for it!  I don’t tolerate those who try to hold me back.  I was able to train for and run a half-marathon because of this confidence. I successfully launched my business, Fit for Life Body as an army of one and have grown it exponentially!  I was able to train for and run a half-marathon because of this confidence.  I wrote my book Fuel Your Fire: Secrets to Living Your Healthiest Life.  I got myself certified as an Integrative Health Coach, a Nutrition Coach and a Personal Trainer all because of this improved confidence.  I also learned Krav Maga, bought a Jeep Wrangler and then took it offroad (at night) and through a mud pit, and started a youtube channel  with my boyfriend!

6.  I learned teamwork.

During various phases of training we would go through team-building types of exercises and field training that taught us how to divide responsibilities and work together tactically as a group.

In boot camp every recruit is an equal. There are no cliques. If one person screws up, the whole group pays for it, usually with push-ups. Over time, the trainees get to know one another and develop friendships. You quickly begin to encourage and push each other during tough obstacles and challenges. Circumstances force teamwork.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from these teamwork exercises is the art of holding my tongue, and really hearing what those around me are saying. Because of my training, I’m able and willing to see things from multiple points of view. I’m less quick to jump to conclusions or pass judgment. I avoid behaving as if I’m always right or the only person with the answers. God puts a lot of amazing and gifted people in our path for a reason. I believe it’s because, maybe, just maybe, we need them on our team!

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